Who Set You Flowin'?: The African-American Migration Narrative / Edition 1

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Twentieth-century America has witnessed the most widespread and sustained movement of African-Americans from the South to urban centers in the North. Who Set You Flowin'? examines the impact of this dislocation and urbanization, identifying the resulting Migration Narratives as a major genre in African-American cultural production. Griffin takes an interdisciplinary approach with readings of several literary texts, migrant correspondence, painting, photography, rap music, blues, and rhythm and blues. From these various sources Griffin isolates the tropes of Ancestor, Stranger, and Safe Space, which, though common to all Migration Narratives, vary in their portrayal. She argues that the emergence of a dominant portrayal of these tropes is the product of the historical and political moment, often challenged by alternative portrayals in other texts or artistic forms, as well as intra-textually. Richard Wright's bleak, yet cosmopolitan portraits were countered by Dorothy West's longing for Black Southern communities. Ralph Ellison, while continuing Wright's vision, reexamined the significance of Black Southern culture. Griffin concludes with Toni Morrison embracing the South "as a site of African-American history and culture," "a place to be redeemed."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Farah Griffin is a new kind of intellectual of the younger generation. She goes beyond the fashionable mantra of Race, Gender, and Class by concretely situating black people constructing themselves as a heterogeneous community on the move geographically, culturally, politically, and existentially."—Cornel West, Harvard University.

"Because Griffin utilizes diverse cultural works, from Billie Holiday, Richard Wright, Jean Toomer, Jacob Lawrence, Toni Morrison, and others, as extended examples and for illustrations, she lends to her 'migration narrative' discourse a familiarity that the general reader can identify with, and that orientation will attract a wide readership inside and outside the Academy."—Booklist

"In this new and suggestive study Griffin places many different forms of expression into a relationship with each other: Literary texts from Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jean Toomer, and Richard Wright to Dorothy West, LeRoi Jones, and Toni Morrison, visual arts from Jacob Lawrence's paintings to FSA photographs, music from Billie Holiday to Stevie Wonder, and varied documentary evidence are considered part of a larger 'migration narrative' that swept an urbanizing black America in the twentieth century. Inspired by Georg Simmel's famous essay 'The Stranger,' this book attempts to reconstruct the inwardness of the tension between belonging and alienation, between ancestry and migration, experienced by a people in motion."—Werner Sollors, Harvard University

"Moving brilliantly across a vast range of textual spaces and political geographies, Farah Griffin flows with the fierce independence and passionate commitment of the migrants whose paths she charts. 'Who Set You Flowin'?' is in every way an exemplary work of U.S. cultural studies."—Eric Lott, University of Virginia

"Farah Jasmine Griffin has written a bold and brilliant book, destined to assume a prominent place in the realms of American and African American literary, cultural, and historical studies. In its carefully contextualized, finely nuanced readings of texts as varied as the paintings of Jacob Lawrence, the poetry of Jean Toomer and Gwendolyn Brooks, the prose of Richard Wright and Toni Morrison, the blues of Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith, and the rap lyrics of Grand Master Flash and Arrested Development, Who Set You Flowin'? is a model of interdisciplinary scholarship that breathes new life into such old pardigms as 'the Great Migration,' 'the rural folk,' and 'the urban masses.' Informative, fascinating, and finely crafted. A pleasure to read."—Ann duCille, Wesleyan University

"...lively and intelligent....a fascinating glimpse into one of this century's most influential and neglected areas of American literature."—The Southern Quarterly

Charles Scruggs
...it is a splendid achievement. -- African American Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195088960
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/25/1995
  • Series: Race and American Culture Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Lexile: 1270L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Farah Jasmine Griffin is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives and writes in Philadelphia.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 "Boll Weevil in the Cotton/Devil in the White Man": Reasons for Leaving the South 13
2 The South in the City: The Initial Confrontation with the Urban Landscape 48
3 Safe Spaces and Other Places: Navigating the Urban Landscape 100
4 To Where from Here? The Final Vision of the Migration Narrative 142
5 New Directions for the Migration Narrative: Thoughts on Jazz 184
Notes 199
Bibliography 219
Index 227
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